It Could Have Been Worse.

Sometimes, in life and in business, things happen that you just have to roll with.

Wednesday saw strong, sometimes violent, storms with high wind and torrential rain come through.  I had to change my schedule to do “office work.”  You see my business is window cleaning, and most people don’t appreciate having their windows cleaned in a deluge, and it is not so much fun for me either.  So…I changed my plans.  I hate doing that, but there was no choice.

Thursday came, with me needing to play catch up.  The weather was better, and I headed out to conquer the day.  On my way to my first job, while driving down the freeway, my truck started shimmying violently.  What was wrong?  I put the transmission in neutral and scanned my gauges.  Oh No!  The temperature gauge was pinned at the top.  I turned on the heater to pull heat off the engine.  It worked enough for me to get to the next exit and pull into a gas station.

My radiator was broken.  The nipple where the upper radiator hose connects to it was crumbling, causing a fluid leak.  Sparing you all the details: I was able to sort-of tighten it over what was left of the nipple and limp (with many cooling off stops) to a nearby O’Reilly Auto Parts store.  They had a radiator in stock, which was not very expensive, and let me change it in their parking lot.  I then was able to continue on my route, delayed some, but continuing none-the-less.

How could it have been worse?

-It could have happened to me Wednesday in the pouring rain had I stubbornly continued with my original plans.

-I could have burned up the truck’s engine.  It is actually ok.

-I could have been unable to fix the problem myself, had to tow the truck, and lost another day of work.

-The people at the auto-parts store could have not let me use their parking lot and borrow a couple of their tools, requiring me to tow my truck.

-It could have been very expensive.

I must say, all of these worst-case scenarios played through my mind when the truck started acting up.  A very bad way to start the day, but a few hours later I was very gratefully carrying on with my work.

So…when life starts throwing handfuls of crap at you, keep pressing through.  It may not be as bad as you are afraid it is.

 

 

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Wouldn’t It be Great?

How many times do we see ads for these business opportunities that look just great?  How many books are out there promising that if you just follow whatever program the author promotes, you will see your business skyrocket and the profits will just come rolling in?  You see these things and for a while you think: “Yeah!  That will work, and, soon, I will be loaded and living large on Easy Street!”  Have you ever heard this one:  “My plan gives you the secrets they don’t want you to know…”

Have you ever looked into any of these programs?  Does it ever happen for you like they say it will?  Probably not.  Usually not.  Never is a very strong word, so I will fall short of using it, but pretty much…never.

Why?

You have to remember, that the author is in the business of selling his book/program/strategy/whatever.  Could you imagine the effectiveness of an advertising campaign that said:  “Purchase my overpriced program and you will still work ridiculously hard and achieve mediocre results at best?”  Would you spend money for that one?  Probably not.  So their goal is to get you excited enough to spend money on what they are peddling.  And who can blame them.  After all, I want people to spend money on what I am selling too.  Don’t you?

Just do yourself an emotional favor and don’t buy all the hype.

Am I saying that all of these offerings are crap?  No.  Honestly, I think a lot of them have value.  But you have to have realistic expectations.  You will probably glean useful information, but they will probably NOT miraculously transform your life.

You also need to remember that day-in and day-out it is still the basics that lead to business success:

DELIVER, AS PROMISED, SOMETHING THAT PEOPLE WANT AT A PRICE THEY FIND VALUABLE WHILE ALLOWING YOU TO MAKE SUFFICIENT PROFIT.

ALWAYS BE PROSPECTING NEW BUSINESS.

MANAGE YOUR EXPENSES, SO THERE IS A BOTTOM LINE LEFT FOR YOU.

TAKE CARE OF YOUR CUSTOMERS.

DON’T BREAK THE LAW.

BE GOOD TO YOUR EMPLOYEES, AND MANAGE THEM TO ACHIEVE PEAK PERFORMANCE.

REPEAT SUCCESSFUL PERFORMANCE EVERY DAY.

I am sure there are many more business basics that I could list out, but the point is that, if we remembered to do these things, daily, we would in fact miraculously transform our businesses.  It may not be overnight, and it definitely will not be without significant effort, but it will happen, and we will be glad for it.

Sadly, that story doesn’t always make for exciting reading, but it does make for a good life as a business owner.  It can be your story, and it can be mine.  Let’s write that story, shall we?

 

 

 

 

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Be a Good Artist

In yesterday’s post I said that not all of us entrepreneurs are good artists.

What did I mean by that?

Just like not all paintings are masterpieces, not all songs are top-40, not all novels are best-sellers, not all inventions find usefulness, not all businesses are, shall we say, works of art either.  This a painful problem.  I guarantee each artist (which is how I classify all of the categories I list above) wants to put out something good, even great.  The creators see something awesome in their minds, but something vastly different shows up in real life.  While it may be tiresome to those on the outside to experience these attempts, to the person who has conceived these works, it can be miserable.

Let’s be honest.  Most of us are not happy with everything we produce creatively.  This can have a myriad of effects on the artist.  Self-doubt can eat you alive.  It does me sometimes.  I look at the condition of some of my creations and can be eaten up with shame.  Occasionally, I just want to pull the covers over my head and hope the day passes without me.  You can’t get very far down your road that way though.

Other times, to battle the constant awareness of falling short, the entrepreneur will justify his failure by making excuses.  “The economy has been bad for years…”  While some of these justifications may be accurate, they do not get the creator any closer to achieving the desired creation.  They just make him feel not-so-bad for failing.

I am going to offer a 3-part alternative to the being overwhelmed or making excuses for sub-par performance.

  1.  Think realistically.  Artistic Nirvana is unobtainable.  Obstacles are everywhere.  Your business will NEVER BE perfectly like you see it in your head.  But I guarantee you that it could be better (even much better) than it is.
  2. Do your best.  That seems trite, but how many days do we give less than our best because our head is not in the game or our pride is wounded or we are eaten up by stress and fear.  Face these things head on and do the best you can, using your intellect and creativity to solve problems instead of just reacting to them.
  3. Improve what your best is and then repeat step 2 with a new-and-improved best.  Learn new things about your craft.  Learn marketing and management techniques.  Learn how to apply technology.  Learn how to manage yourself better. Discipline yourself.

Let’s face it:  There are much, much more works of art–of whatever expression–that are not top-tier but that DO make our lives more beautiful and enjoyable everyday.  They are art none-the-less.  What if the creators of these never composed because they weren’t a Beethoven, never painted because they weren’t a Rembrandt, never wrote because they weren’t a Dickens, never invented because they weren’t an Edison, and never started and innovated a business because they weren’t a Henry Ford?  The world would be an empty place.  There is a vast difference between the very top and nothing.  Don’t think your creations are nothing just because your achievements are not top .01%…yet.

Strive to be the best there is–to be the poster child for greatness.  Work on your masterpiece every day.  But, understand that life and creation is a journey, not a destination to arrive at.  Make your creations of today better than they were yesterday.  Take satisfaction in what you have done, but don’t rest on your laurels.   And if you sucked yesterday or today or even for the last few years, then shake it off and make tomorrow better.

Put out pieces of art to make the world a better place for those who come in contact with them.  And enjoy your accomplishments along the way.

 

 

 

 

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Are You Different?

I first wanted to have my own business when I was 17.  I worked at a nursery (plants, not babies) in high school and saw myself having a landscaping business.

I didn’t realize the goal of owning my business until I was 33 (although I did make several attempts and did my own thing part-time a few times along with my wife having her own business for a while).  All of those 16 years, I knew it was what I wanted, even though I was a bit afraid of it, and I didn’t know how to pull it off.

I figured everyone was like me, either an entrepreneur or an entrepreneur who hadn’t made the leap yet.  I was wrong.  Most people aren’t.

I even figured that I could structure my business so that my key employees could have a chance to pursue their own entrepreneurial bents, and it would light their fires, and we would all benefit from this.  I tried speaking to them in a way that would stir an entrepreneur to action.  They seemed to get excited about the rewards, then set back just doing their daily jobs, nothing more, waiting for me to make it happen for them.  They didn’t understand the words I was speaking or just were not up for it.  And, to the suffering of my business, I did not understand this.

I don’t know why everyone doesn’t want to be an entrepreneur, but they do not.

An entrepreneur has more in common with an artist, author, composer, or inventor.  We all see things that don’t exist yet, then work to bring them to pass.  In many cases, we do this “on our own time” for a period before we are rewarded for our work.  All of these groups are rewarded for their RESULTS, not their effort or time.

Commission sales people are sort of like this–being rewarded for results, writing their own paycheck, etc., but they don’t envision the structure or the product.  They rarely see the big picture, just their little part.

CEO’s run businesses, like many entrepreneurs do.  But many CEO’s get there by either being very effective at running someone else’s system or at working the politics to gain advancement or both.  Honestly, an entrepreneur may not really be good at either (managing a system or politics).  Some are CEO’s of their own business.  Some realize that the best thing they can do is get out of the way and hire someone else to do it.

Michael Gerber, in his E-Myth books, talks about the mistake entrepreneurs make of spending their time working IN their businesses when they should be working ON them.  The business is their creation, not their employer.

We are different.  Actually, kind of a rare breed.  Our job is more of envisioning and creating and doing what it takes to make it happen.  We are the artists of the business world.  (Sadly, not all of us are good artists.)

Celebrate who you are.  Not everyone will understand you, but that is ok.  You just need to make it your goal to understand those you are surrounded by, so you don’t make false assumptions about what they want, because what they want is most likely is not what you want.  They would find your life very uncomfortable, where you are happy within it–stress and all.

To answer the question:  If you are an entrepreneur, yes, you are different.

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Don’t Be a Boov

Having grandchildren has its perks.  One of them is getting the chance to watch animated movies, many of which are very well made and have elements in them that are interesting to adults.

Recently, my wife and I watched one such production, called Home.  In this show, an alien civilization (The Boov) has taken over earth and relocated all the humans to Australia, all except one–a girl named “Tip.”  Among these aliens is an outcast, named “Oh” who is always getting into trouble.  Tip and Oh end up together on a quest to find Tip’s mom in Australia.

On their adventures, we learn a few things about Boov.  The Boov are masters at running away.  Anytime there is less than a 50% probability of success, the Boov give up.  And they NEVER under any circumstances run toward danger.  (As I am sure you can surmise at this point, most of the story is about Oh having to face these situations, while being drug kicking and screaming by Tip.)

Being an Entrepreneur involves risk.  In fact, taking risk to achieve success is entrepreneurial at its very core.  We see something we want, and, with no guarantee of reward, we begin to invest–our time, energy, resources, even credit–to acquire our goal.  Sometimes we invest for years without seeing the reward.  We believe in ourselves and our vision, even when the statistical chances of achievement are slim.  (You do know that most small businesses fail–in fact, lately, more are failing than begin.) We may even see opportunity in danger–a situation which most would run from gives us inspiration for something new that we run toward.

I had to learn not to give up.  When I was younger, I was sure that quick success was a sign that I was on the right path.  Too many obstacles meant that I was heading the wrong way.  Time to change.  I changed jobs frequently and was always looking for something better.  I gave up on a dream and quit seminary (yes, I wanted to be a preacher) when it got too hard to make ends meet.  Another time, I even went back on a promise to my wife to help her start her own business when I got offered a promotion that involved relocating to another city, thinking it would improve our lives.

The thing about my quitting was that it kept me from reward.  After I had decided to quit seminary and made a commitment to a job in another state, opportunities that I had been pursuing where I was came together.  We would have had all we needed to have made it through to the end.  Ironically, we never stopped struggling financially at that new job.  That promotion I took for which I violated my promise led to a net decrease in my family’s finances and put us in a mold-infested house that made everyone in my family sick.  Not to mention, my wife had a huge gig for her little venture that would have had her making substantial income right away had we stayed.  Running away was not working for me.

My wife figured this out before I did–I think the whole making-her-give-up-on-her-professional-goals-to-achieve-less-than-we-would-have-had-if-we-had-stayed thing kind of drove the point home to her.  Ya think?  So, when we started our business in 1999, there were more than a few opportunities every day to quit.  And, believe me, I wanted to.  But she wouldn’t let me.  She kept reminding what quitting had cost us all these years.  How most of the time the “change” I wanted where the grass was greener than my current painful situation wasn’t so great as I had hoped–leading me to want to change yet again.

I had to learn how to press through and win where I was.  To not give up when the chances of success were less than 50%.  To confront and even run toward danger if that were necessary.

Funny thing, when I did theses things, we started getting rewards.  Our worst years in our not-so-sexy cleaning business have been significantly better than the best of what I had with my corporate job.  We live in an executive neighborhood, and even work half of the time on the beach in Florida where we rent a place as well.  Don’t get me wrong, it has not been cushy.  In fact, sometimes it is very painful.  But it is better.  At least for us.

So, if you have been a Boov, like me, it is time to stop.  Find your place; draw your line in the sand, and determine to find a way to succeed–where you are.  Maybe the “change” you really need to make is within you.

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When It’s All Said and Done…

…there’s always more said than done.

A quick thought:  It is always exciting to dream about your entrepreneurial aspirations.  It is moving to talk about them.  What gets you there is working on them.

Dreaming is critical.  Planning in invaluable.  But without putting your nose to the grindstone and doing the hard work, nothing will ever come to pass.  Or worse, someone else will hear about your ideas and do the hard work and make it happen, and you will be sitting by the side wondering why they are experiencing the benefits of your vision and you are not.

Hard, consistent effort in the direction of your desires will get you there.  And, if you are one of those few who work on it, you are miles ahead of everyone else, because too many just think about it and talk about it and do nothing.

“All hard work brings a profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty.” (Proverbs 14:23, NIV)

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Doing More of What Makes Me Feel Good.

“If it makes you happy…it can’t be that bad.” or so Sheryl Crow says.

Am I calling forth my inner hedonist?  Steak dinners with my favorite Malbec.  Massages.  Chilling out by the beach.  Celebrating with friends.  Being lazy.  Doing what I feel like.

“If it makes you happy…then why are you so sad?” the song continues.

Do you know what makes you feel good–really?  Maybe you should find out.  I can guarantee that it has very little to do with unbridled self-indulgence–as Ms. Crow also seems to grasp.  And it will never be realized by being lazy and just catering to my whims at any given moment.  I’m not talking about what I feel like doing.  I’m talking about doing what makes me feel good.

What I am talking about is spending more of my time doing those things that lead to personal balance, peace, happiness, and fulfillment.  I think it is easy in our grueling world to get completely carried along by the rivers of necessity–the things that I must do to survive–that it takes a great amount of purpose and effort to go in any other direction.  I realized that I have been doing a lot of that–just being overwhelmed by life and trying to keep my head above water.  I have been doing relatively little of what makes me feel good.

Now, I want to take this whole concept out of the ethereal and bring it down to the real world.  I am going to talk about what makes me personally feel good.

I love to create.  My artistic skills are limited (or pretty much non-existent).  I have family members–wife, daughters, mother, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, and brother-in-law, even my own brother–who have talents in fine arts that completely elude me.  Drawing a line with a ruler is about as far as I go.

I have had the pleasure of partnering with my wife and daughters to build things with wood.  We have made a huge island in our kitchen.  We built an extraordinary deck in our backyard to accommodate our daughter’s wedding.  These projects have given me much satisfaction and accomplishment–even though I could have never created them myself.  By teaming with those more talented than myself, I got to be a part of something beautiful.  This is a big lesson for me, because I have never been much of a team player.  “I can do it myself!”

My creative talents are more verbal.  I can write.  And when I do, it is like parts of my mind open up and I feel alive.  There is something healing and invigorating about getting something our of my soul and expressed with the written word.  Composing, however, does not always come easily for me.  I am a bit ADD, and sometimes my mind gets impatient with the level of work it takes to create with the written word.  Nevertheless, when I take the time to express myself in writing, I do not regret it.

(As an aside, I am experiencing this whole partnership thing with writing as well.  My wife, Shonnie, who is also a very capable writer, and I are collaborating on a book.  We have talked about it for years, but never pulled ourselves together to do it.  Now, we are.  I am very excited about this project, and more than a little nervous, but I believe we are going to get there.  This and the other creative things we have done together has opened my eyes to something that REALLY makes me feel good–creating something beautiful as a partner with my wife!)

As another verbal talent–I love public speaking.  It is what I studied in college.  Oratory is my drug of choice.  While most people would rather have a root canal than have to deliver a speech, I would rather give that speech than do almost anything else.  I think it excites a high level of focus for me.  Not to mention that I am a ham who loves attention.  By the responses I get, I think my audiences enjoy themselves too.  If you have an event you could use a motivational speaker for…I am your man!

I am going to hit on a couple more really quickly.

I love selling for my business–it makes my thinking come alive about what I do.  I think I really like the fact that every sales call can possibly lead to something life-changing, and I never really know which one it will be.

I love bike-riding, weight-lifting, hiking, swimming, paddle boarding, and all manner of physical activity.  It makes me feel good physically and calms my inner turmoil.

I love reading.  (Yes, I am aware that I redundantly keep saying “I love,” but I do, and I want you to see the point.  Do you see it?)  Self-help, devotional, business management and development, sales, and good fiction.  I love to read.  I love to learn.  I love a good story.  I love to expand my thinking.  Reading gives these things to me.

Ok, so you get the idea.  The things that make me feel good are not hedonistic.  Rather, they tap into  gifts that I have and the deep need to give expression to them.  These tasks are not easy, and definitely do not come about by giving in to hedonism or laziness.  But they actually make me feel good–all over.

So…what makes YOU feel good, really?

Later,

Mike

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